At RFV Tactical, concealed carry is our jam! We daily carry compact handguns with full-size weapon mounted lights 90% of the time (14 hours a day, 7 days a week) and slimline subcompact handguns the other 10% of the time. There are plenty of reviews on the popular compact and subcompact optic ready handguns listed below, so this article is just focusing on the most obvious Pro and the most glaring Con of each gun when they are fresh out of the box without any modifications done or accessories added. There are obviously more optics ready compact and subcompact handguns currently available, but we actually own and have experience with all of the guns below for holster making purposes as they seem to be the most popular in their given categories. By the way... the guns are listed in the order of our preference with the best at the top of each category.
Staccato 2011 C2 DPO
Biggest Pro: Excellent Trigger
Biggest Con: Price
The incredible feel of the single-action-only trigger design of the 1911 makes it the standard by which all other triggers are compared to and strive to achieve. It is nearly impossible for a hinged striker fired trigger to safely replicate the feel of the 1911 trigger. The Staccato 2011 series of handguns offer that sought after 1911 trigger with increased capacity for duty or concealed carry use. Unfortunately, most high quality 1911s and 2011s are also very expensive and the C2 is approximately 3 to 4 times the cost of most quality polymer or alloy frame compact handguns.
Shown with a Trijicon RM06 optic on a milled non-DPO
slide using a Trijicon 1911/2011 specific mounting plate
Walther PDP Compact
Biggest Pro: Excellent Trigger
Biggest Con: Optic Mounting System*
The Walther PPQ is very well known for its excellent factory trigger. The PDP is an updated optics ready version of the PPQ with better grip texture and aggressive slide serrations. Just like the PPQ, the PDP's trigger is excellent for a factory striker fired handgun and the gun has very good ergonomics. The biggest issue with the gun is that the optics mounting system does not have any type of locating lugs or recoil bosses for an optic mounting plate to index on. It is simply just a flat pocket milled into the slide with two threaded holes for the screws to hold an optic mounting plate in place. If the optic mounting plate that is used is not precision cut to perfectly fit that milled pocket front to back, there will be unnecessary shear forces placed on the mounting screws each time the gun cycles during recoil which could potentially fatigue and break them. There is also no lateral support for the mounting plates, so a harsh bump on the side of the optic could potentially fatigue and break the screws.
*NOTE: All new PDP handguns produced in mid 2022 (designated as "2.0") come with an optics cut that now has locating lugs for the plates. This eliminates the biggest Con of this gun, and potentially makes it the best striker fired optics ready compact on the market!
Shown with a Holosun 509T optic
on a CHPWS optic mounting plate
CZ-USA P-10C OR
Biggest Pro: Excellent Trigger*
Biggest Con: Stiff Slide Release
The trigger of the CZ P-10C is excellent right out of the box (see the note below). It is almost as good as the Walther PDP in regards to break, reset, and pull weight. Like the PDP it is also very ergonomic. The biggest problem with this gun is that the slide stop/release lever is extremely stiff and difficult to actuate for releasing the slide when the gun is brand new. This issue improves over time with use, but its very noticeable and frustrating when new.
*NOTE: We have read reports that CZ P-10 triggers can feel quite a bit different from gun to gun right out of the box, so it is possible that other P-10C triggers may not be as good as our sample size of one.
Glock 19 Gen5 MOS
Biggest Pro: Aftermarket Support
Biggest Con: Grip Angle
The Glock 19 is the standard by which all other compact handguns are compared. However, the Glock handgun has remained relatively unchanged for several decades with only small improvements with each new generation. Thankfully, there is a huge variety of aftermarket support to improve and customize just about every aspect of the gun. The biggest complaint about the Glock 19 (and most other Glock models) is that the grip angle is substantially different from most other modern handguns, and not in a good way. People go to great lengths to modify the grip angle of Glocks with the addition of aftermarket beavertail backstraps or even permanent modifications like trigger guard under-cuts and grip reductions that remove the infamous "Glock Hump" on the lower half of the grip's backstrap.
Ameriglo sights, a modified OEM backstrap, and a re-contoured trigger guard
Smith & Wesson M&P9 M2.0 Compact OR
Biggest Pro: Optic Mounting System
Biggest Con: Trigger*
While the M&P C.O.R.E. optic mounting system uses plastic filler plates for different optics, it is one of the most robust factory optic mounting systems available. It includes 7 different filler plates and screws for a wide variety of optics, and the mounting screws for any compatible optic go directly and deeply into the slide (similar to the Shadow Systems optic mounting system) for a very solid and secure installation. The factory trigger with it's hinged safety design is this gun's biggest and possibly only flaw. The trigger isn't horrible by any means, but it is commonly replaced with a drastically improved trigger kit from Apex Tactical.
*NOTE: All new M&P handguns (late 2021) now come with the new flat face trigger that comes with the new Shield Plus listed below, which is a definite improvement.
Shown with a Holosun 508T optic
and an Apex Tactical curved trigger
Sig Sauer P320 XCarry/XCompact
Biggest Pro: Modularity
Biggest Con: High Bore Axis
The modularity of the Sig P320 fire control unit (FCU) is such a great innovation that comes with a really smooth trigger pull (especially with the X-series). You can essentially build multiple guns for different purposes with only one serialized FCU by simply purchasing additional slides/barrels and grip modules. The biggest downside to the Sig P320 series is that it has a very high bore axis for a striker fired gun which causes more muzzle flip compared to other guns in the same category. The increased muzzle flip isn't a night and day difference, but it is definitely noticeable.
XCarry shown with a Sig Romeo1Pro optic
and RFV Tactical grip chop and texture
Springfield XD-M Elite Compact OSP
Biggest Pro: Decent Trigger
Biggest Con: Overall Design and Execution*
While the Elite series of the Springfield XD-M handguns have fairly decent triggers and the guns look pretty good aesthetically, the overall design and execution of all the XD handguns is simply subpar. Their grip texture looks aggressive, but is actually fairly smooth. Their grip safeties are unnecessary and historically problematic. The grip length of this compact is more of a subcompact length which makes it awkward to get a good grip with or without the included magwell (why offer a flared magwell with a subcompact grip length?!?) and it reduces the capacity of the gun compared to other similar sized guns. The gun is also heavier than all of the other polymer frame guns in the category. All that weight is in the slide, which makes the gun feel very top heavy. To top it all off, their optic mounting system places the optic abnormally high on the top of the slide, which requires extremely tall iron sights to be able to co-witness through the optic window. Springfield includes those extra tall iron sights on their larger Elite guns with threaded barrels, but they are not included with the compact nor available for purchase separately from Springfield.
*NOTE: Due to the disappointing experience with this gun, it was sold and we no longer offer holsters for any of the XD series guns without using the customer's actual gun during the mold process, but we left this one in the article as a warning to people about how bad these guns are!
Shown with a Hex Dragonfly optic and a
modified Pearce magazine pinky extension
Compact Handguns - Honorable Mention
CZ-USA P-07 and P-01 Omega
Biggest Pro: Excellent Ergonomics
Biggest Con: Not Optics Ready
Even though the CZ P-07 and P-01 Omega are not optics ready from the factory, they are both outstanding handguns for concealed carry use, so we wanted to mention them in this article. These guns have excellent ergonomics and have proven to be very reliable. They are double-action/single-action hammer fired guns that we feel are one of the safest platforms for defensive purposes due to the longer double-action first trigger pull. This is especially beneficial for appendix carry since you can keep your thumb on the back of their de-cocked hammers as you holster the gun to greatly reduce the chance of an accidental discharge. The CZ P-07 is our all time favorite gun to carry and shoot at RFV Tactical, and we recently acquired an alloy frame CZ-75 P-01 Omega that has the same internal trigger components as the P-07. Out of the box, the double-action trigger pull on both guns is a little heavy, but that can be easily and inexpensively improved by installing a performance spring upgrade kit from Cajun Gun Works for around $30 to lighten the double-action trigger pull and further increase their overall reliability. Since neither of these guns come optics ready from the factory, you'll have to send their slides off to a reputable optic milling company like Impact CNC Machine (that's who we use!) to get them direct milled for your favorite optic.
Slimline Subcompact Handguns
Glock 43X/48 MOS
Biggest Pro: Aftermarket Support
Biggest Con: Capacity vs. Size
As with the Glock 19, there is a ton of aftermarket support for these guns to upgrade and customize to your heart's content. The biggest issue is that the factory magazines only hold 10 rounds despite the gun having a fairly long grip compared to smaller micro compact handguns that can hold up to 12 rounds with a flush fitting magazine. That previously mentioned aftermarket support addresses this flaw with flush fit 15-round magazines available from Shield Arms.
43X shown with a Swampfox Sentinel optic
and RFV Tactical grip texture
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield Plus OR
Biggest Pro: Great Trigger
Biggest Con: No Accessory Rail
While the increased capacity of the Shield Plus is a welcomed improvement over the original Shield, the new and improved flat face trigger in the gun is great for a factory trigger. The lack of an accessory rail to mount a good compact weapon light is the only thing that keeps this gun from being perfect. We wish they would have at least put an accessory rail on the 4" version of the gun, but it uses the exact same frame as the shorter 3.1" version. See our blog post where we fabricated and installed a custom accessory rail to attach a quality weapon light!
3.1" version shown with a Holosun 507K optic
and a shortened Pearce magazine pinky extension
Sig Sauer P365X/P365XL
Biggest Pro: Capacity vs. Size
Biggest Con: Small Grip Circumference
The Sig P365 is the gun that started the "High Capacity Micro Compact" trend that all other new slimline subcompacts strive to achieve. It's high capacity for its size makes it very appealing, but it has the smallest grip circumference of all the latest micro compact handguns. This may be fine for people with small hands, but the reduced grip surface area can be problematic for people with average size or larger hands to maintain a good grip on the gun with both hands.
P365X shown with a Sig RomeoZero optic
Springfield Hellcat OSP
Biggest Pro: Capacity vs. Size
Biggest Con: Heavy Trigger
The standard size Hellcat looks great and is almost identical in size and capacity to the Sig P365, but it has a fairly heavy trigger compared to the other micro compact guns, which makes it a little difficult to be accurate with the gun past 10 yards even with a properly zeroed optic installed.
Hellcat OSP shown with a Shield Sights RMSc optic
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